A Dreaded Appointment

If there’s a chance to skip seeing the dentist or the eye doctor for another year, you bet your bottom dollar I’d do it. Not to mention actual yearly physicals at the doctor’s office. I cringe just thinking about it.

Don’t think of me as a role model in this case. I know my opinions are not the best to have, but I’m also not a minority. How many of us are actually eager and diligent to be our best selves and schedule the yearly or biyearly appointments with our health providers when we should?

It’s not like these are obligations to look forward to. Even if they don’t necessarily cause physical pain, the thought of entering a clinic and going through the motions can make many people anxious wrecks, me included. Because who knows what they might discover? Or what unexpected test or procedure we’d have to do? Or the risk of becoming ill just from being in that “sterilized” environment?

I get it. I’m with you, 110%. But as I have become more accustomed to go to the doctor’s, whether it’s for actual issues or just to update a prescription, I realize its importance.

Here’s my usual rationale: If I feel fine, I know my teeth and eyes are fine, then why have to put myself through extra stress to have someone else tell me what I already know?

My more enlightening moments have been when I actually have had problems, and surprisingly, I was more than willing to go seek help. For that alone, I’m very proud of myself. For example, I had my first all-over physical last year (judge me) and was actually able to form a solid relationship with my doctor at the time, making it much easier to go in when I really had issues to discuss. I could feel more at ease knowing that he understood and supported me.

Another example is my last dentist appointment, something I was so against doing. The previous year, I had been told by a new dentist that I needed my wisdom teeth removed ASAP, that if I didn’t do it within those few months, I would have many complications. Again, being me, I didn’t do anything. I wasn’t about to experience my first time sedated and worry about the recovery. However, the next year going to another new dentist, I was so relieved to hear that my wisdom teeth were absolutely fine, and I might not need them removed at all. So what I assumed was going to be dreadful turned out to be the biggest sigh I didn’t know I’ve been holding in.

And now I speak as someone who is searching for answers and having to rely much more on the words of doctors. While I do want to dabble more into my own means of management for mental illness and digestive issues, I am now willing to go to specialists to have more perspective of what my body might be telling me and how to treat it. (Yesterday morning I actually went to a GI specialist, which I’ll discuss more in an upcoming post, so stay tuned.) In May I’ll even see a practitioner of functional medicine, a more holistic approach to health, and why it’s still many months away, I’m actually looking forward to the experience.

Me? Looking forward to a doctor’s appointment? I know, shocking. But when you do have health concerns and realize that your body is not invincible, you begin to realize the true value of taking care of yourself. Only you can know how to do that best. For me, that’s being okay with a yearly flu shot, with figuring out the best antidepressant, with changing my lifestyle and diet to relieve my intolerant gut.

It’s a privilege to have the resources we do, to have health insurance to cover seeing qualified medical professionals, in emergencies or not. You might be thinking, in comparison to my thoughts earlier this week on holistic medicine, this post seems like a stark contrast, but hear me out.

I am for intuitive awareness of your health, knowing what your body needs in that particular situation. There are many ways of going about it, and we should openly explore all our options to see what’s best for us. What does our unique body and psyche need to prevent and treat whatever might cross our paths?

And if that means facing those fears of dreaded doctor’s appointments, then it’s something worth doing. If it means trying new things you never expected, then do them anyway. Your health is your most precious gift. No matter your age or mentality toward your health, especially if you’re still young and “will always be healthy,” don’t take it for granted. Be a proactive contributor to bettering your wellness, not a passive bystander oblivious to arising concerns that show up “out of the blue.” You’ll never regret taking care of yourself.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

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Fear Setting

Verbal to Visual has provided a helpful image to illustrate this TED Talk.

 

Seems like a backwards concept, right? Why would we want to amplify our anxieties when we could focus on our goals, our successes?

Tim Ferriss speaks of the value of better understanding our lowpoints in his TED Talk. As he lives with bipolar depression and has found himself many times on the edge of darkness and suicide, his insight is worth a listen.

So what do I mean by “fear setting”? Well, we all know about goal-setting, a practice even I’ve probably talked your ear off about. It’s most effective to physically write out what you hope to achieve for yourself so you can keep those thoughts at the forefront. You can then better align your daily actions with those goals and make them that much more tangible.

Yes, you’ve heard that one a few or plenty of times from me. But what about fear setting? Mental illness or not, we’ve had points of hesitation, of self-doubt. If an opportunity arises, we fear its implications and might automatically push it aside. This could be anything from accepting a new job, going out to a social event, or even just taking a break for yourself when you feel overwhelmed with work.

The first step is to make three columns. The first list, write out every fear you have associated with a particular situation. For example, if that’s going on a vacation to get away from a hectic schedule, you might fear the unknown of what could go wrong on the trip, or you fear getting so far behind in your work that you risk failure.

Now you list what you could do to prevent these fears from happening. In this case, you could research ahead of time your travel plans and prepare accordingly, and you could let others know of your plans and work ahead to get major assignments out of the way before you go.

Inevitably, there are some things you can’t control. Life is unpredictable, and no matter how much you plan and prepare, things can fall through. The third column then is listing how to repair the damages if your fears were to happen. So maybe your luggage is lost or a flight canceled. You can always readjust your schedule and make do with what you have. If something arises with your work or schooling, talk with those involved and work something out. Either way, no matter what happens, it’s not the end of the world. Admittedly, that’s easier said than believed.

But here’s another thought to think and write about. What would happen six months, a year, even three years down the road if you did not choose to partake in these opportunities? If you let your fears get the best of you, what effects will that have? If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably be working your tail off until you implode. You’ll fall into unhealthy, harmful behaviors, relying upon stimulants to get you through the day. You’ll regret not giving yourself some relief. You might find that you had less work to do than you realized, and then fall into depression for overthinking it all. Which, trust me, I’ve been through this pattern too many times to count.

Self-awareness and reflection is so powerful. Being able to look objectively at even a snapshot of our racing thoughts really can change your perspective. When we allow those thoughts to just continue buzzing through without questioning them, they can truly run our lives. They can isolate us into what we see as safe, comfortable status quos that, in reality, hold us back from truly living.

A single list probably won’t change your life. If you have specific fears, you probably will continue facing those even after listing and rationalizing them. But at least you’re becoming an active voice above your anxiety. You’re not entirely allowing it control. You’re making progress in the right direction. Hopefully you’ll realize your mental strength is far greater than you ever imagined.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

What’s the Alternative?


Hippie voodoo pseudoscience hooplah mumbo-jumbo. Whatever terminology you want to use, I’m sure it and much else has previously described alternative medicine.

Which, I get it. We’re used to toting down the innovation that is modern Western medicine, the many valuable resources we now have our disposal to live as long as we do…but where did those innovations originate? Where did ideas, techniques, and ingredients first take shape?

Well, what is now considered “alternative” is where much of what we know today comes from. The ingredients and herbs that we used to use on the daily to be healthy are processed into current prescriptions. And science has proven that the ideas behind many alternative medicines are truly beneficial. For example, neurology has shown that there are nerve clusters where our body’s “chakras” are located. And the energy and electricity from our brains and hearts project beyond us, able for an EKG machine to pick up without being hooked up to the patient.

I think the fact that my religion class, in preparation for a project that requires us to organize our “last rites,” brought in several people to speak last week about alternative medicine. Not to mention that all of these speakers are professors who have studied years of Western medicine and work in the university’s Health Sciences department. So it’s not like we have people off the street going in blind to talk about this topic.

The class really fired me up. I have been on and off on my interest and trust in holistic practices.

What I value most about holistic medicine is its intentions. We have modern medicine in case of major emergencies, and that is such a blessing. However, how the current healthcare system operates, it makes its business when we aren’t feeling well. The more sickness there is, the more money they make. Holistic medicine, however, is preventative in nature. It’s about learning to tune into your own unique body, you yourself being your best healer, to know your natural rhythms and composition.

When we go to the doctor’s office, we tell them our symptoms and they give the pill or treatment that is associated with whatever condition you’re in. Essentially, it’s the “mean” treatment, the standard and average way that seems to work with most people. But that doesn’t answer questions you might have about your own potential reaction or benefits. And since it’s medicine that is simply coping with our illness, not necessarily treating and preventing it, you have to keep coming back or be reliant on that medication to feel well.

Also, when they give you said pill based on said diagnosis, it’s isolating that one concern in most cases rather than taking into account your entire body, mind, and soul. We are constantly being influenced by different outside stimuli and throw off our balance, causing problems that I never associated with each other. For example, having digestive issues when you’re especially anxious. You have to pick and choose what you should treat, when a change in lifestyle or a daily practice could do wonders.

The Western lifestyle in general, always needing to be up and going, eating a conventional diet, expecting constant productivity and instant gratification, is the exact opposite of what is best for our overall wellness. So yes, we are being reactive to the “normal” symptoms that just arise by either accepting them or numbing them. Dealing with migraines, indigestion, acne, and other common conditions we’re accustomed to aren’t supposed to be “givens.” There’s a reason they are happening, but we might not be trying to find the right answer.

We underestimate just how powerful our minds and bodies are. I mean, think of the people who don’t choose to get a flu shot each season because they claim they got sick days after. Scientifically, as a dormant disease you’re injected with, it would take weeks for that strain of influenza to actually become active and make you sick. And if you’ve ever seen any medical study and the control group improves their health through taking sugar pills, that should speak volumes.

By no means should we choose one option over the other, and that’s what gets most people in a tizzy. I don’t think we should be reverting back to everything our ancestors did (hello, the paleo diet…). However, I think we should strive for a greater balance in how we see wellness and overall health. Incorporating more Eastern traditions into our Western mindset might throw off the healthcare system as we know it (which is a big reason why you find much, if anything, covered under health insurance), but that change, I think, would be for the better. Western treatment should serve as the “alternative” if we chose to become more in-tune with our bodies and the energy we project and receive.

Some of what is considered “alternative medicine” is, to me, the stereotypical representation of what many assume. You don’t have to partake in everything that is included under the holistic umbrella. If the only thing you do is become more mindful and intentional in your life, that itself should be the biggest priority and take-away message. Our bodies are so much more than machines that a simple troubleshooting manual can help. They’re unique, absorbent, responsive, strong. Why do people come to holistic approaches? Besides the given benefits, it is empowering to actually know yourself, inside and out, and give it exactly what it needs. Our daily habits, in the moment not damaging, can add up. Align yourself with what you truly believe in. You deserve that.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie